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Reno Smart: Renovation Resolution – Feb/Mar2017

Reno Smart: Renovation Resolution - Feb/Mar2017

Photography: Robin Stubbert

The success of any reno relies on detailed planning and informed decisions

Any home renovation can be a daunting prospect that too easily turns into information overload, much of it conflicting. It can be difficult to move past the dreaming stage without losing control.


The biggest worry homeowners have about a major renovation is the budget, and rightly so. Without detailed planning, costs can quickly spiral out of control. I talk about detailed planning a lot because the importance can’t be overstated. But what does “detailed planning” actually mean? It’s a package of information that creates a road map for the whole project.

Be prepared to discuss a necessary list of small decisions with your designer that need to be made before you can begin:

  • Trim, door and hardware styles, and finishes
  • Plumbing fixtures and faucets
  • Appliance equipment
  • Light fixtures
  • Flooring materials and coverings
  • Fabrics for upholstery and window treatments
  • Wall treatments—paint, wallpaper or special finishes
  • Furnishings, right down to the toss cushions
  • And be prepared for big decisions such as whether or not you need to move walls to achieve your design goals.


Conventional wisdom suggests you get three different quotes before you decide who to hire. That’s not necessarily the best course of action.

If you do want to get multiple quotes, the drawing/specification package is essential so everyone bidding uses exactly the same information, and you’re comparing apples to apples. If you ask for estimates from a few different contractors with only a verbal description of what you want, you’ll be comparing apples to kumquats. Each contractor will interpret your verbal description based on his own experience, which may not be even close to what you envision, and the estimates can vary wildly as a result. A project information package details what you want and expect, with no ambiguity. As a result, the quotes should vary minimally. Next, choose a contractor you “click” with because a renovation can take months, and you need to feel comfortable with this person in your house, day in and day out.

Here is the other approach: Most designers work with one or two contractors regularly, so their recommendation usually means the contractor is well known to them and the workmanship has stood the test of time. It’s in your best interest to work with an established team, so when the inevitable job site challenges crop up, the designer, contractor and trades are working together to find the best solution with a minimum of finger pointing.

The designer is your advocate, knows the contractor’s strengths, and the contractor understands what level of quality the designer expects. There are so many moving parts to a renovation and there can be over 100 people involved in some way, even though you will never see or hear about some of them. A proven team leaves less room for error and miscommunication.

There are no shortcuts to a highquality renovation. Detailed planning and an established team could be just the renovation remedy you need to get your project moving again.

Robin Siegerman is a 20-plus year veteran of the home design and renovation business, an international design award winner, conference speaker, and author of Renovation Bootcamp: Kitchen – Design and Remodel Your Kitchen Without Losing Your Wallet, Your Mind or Your Spouse.

For a free kitchen renovation planner, visit